Theology Watch

Haim Watzman

My sister Nancy once worked for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, a project that tracks where legislators get their money from and how it affects their votes.

But Congress seems to be in danger no less from bad theology as bad money. Yesterday she referred me to this incredible video of Rep. John Shimkus, who represents a huge chunk of southern Illinois. Shimkus believes that, because God promised Noah that he would not destroy the world again, we don’t need to do anything about global warming.

Note that Shimkus segues without blinking from God’s promise that He will not destroy the world into the odd idea that therefore mankind is incapable of destroying the world on its own. That’s sloppy theology.

Maimonides would not have made such a ridiculous mistake had he been elected to Congress. He adduced the Talmudic principle that ha-olam ke-minhago noheg—meaning that the universe functions in accordance with the laws of nature. Even when the Messiah comes, he argued, we will see no supernatural events or miracles that violate the natural order. (One reason Maimonides and other theologians have held this position is that if the natural order must be violated for God to carry out his will, then the world is an imperfect creation—implying that God made mistakes that He needs to correct.)

So God’s promise to Noah is not that he’s made it impossible for Noah’s descendants to destroy the world. God’s message to Noah is that it’s entirely up to humankind to maintain the world. It would be apt to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin today: “A world—if you can keep it.”

5 thoughts on “Theology Watch”

  1. Although I tend to agree with you about making public policy based on thinking like that, I don’t think the other people who want to throw trillions of dollars at the supposed Global Warming threat without carefully studying what the effect of these policies is, simply to be able to say that they are doing “something” are any more rational.

  2. Note also that Shimkus invites theological debate, while in the same breath removing himself from any debate, claiming that “God’s word is infallible, unchanging, perfect” (very unlike what some human beings make of it, I’d add). By definition you can’t debate with the Unchanging, and by assuming a literalistic POV he reduces religion to a means of social control, with God no more than the ultimate authority to refer to when needed.

    When a literalist mentions the age of dinosaurs in a scientific context (amount of CO2 in the atmosphere), my inner voice immediately says “voodoo science”. Has anyone at the debate asked him if the age of dinosaurs was 5000 or rather 100 million years ago?

  3. It is extremely important to mention that the House gives it’s members a minute to two to spill out their message except for the Speaker and the opposition leader. Unfortunately the opposition’s leader Congressman “Bonehead “s’ retort to the Climate Bill isn’t any more enlightened than Shimkus. How long do we study climate change before we do something. The overwelming consensus of the scientific community is that we humans are the principal contributors to erosion of the ozone layer and greenhouse gases are destroying our atmosphere. Y I know you don’t have glaciers in Israel so you can’t see up close and personal what I have seen in Alaska but you do have the river Jordan to feed the needs of the community and the last time I looked at it and it’s reduced flow I suspect you have a real environmental crisis in the making .

  4. At least he was democratically elected from his district. Who is the representative from South Jerusalem serving in the Knesset? RIght now, all you get is a vote for a party which then does abrupt changes when he is in office. While I disagree with Rep Shimkus stand on global warming, he is probably more intelligent than 85% of the Knesset

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